On Friday night's Real Time, HBO talk-host Bill Maher berated conservative (and fellow atheist) S.E. Cupp for her new book Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media's Attack on Christianity. “Liberals are not atheists any more than conservatives are. Michael Moore is religious! Chris Matthews is religious! Al Sharpton is religious!” Maher went so far as to insist the liberal media has “never” attacked religion:
MAHER: But this is your premise, that the liberal media is attacking religion.
CUPP: They are.
CUPP: Every day.
MAHER: Never. Never.
CUPP: Do you watch TV?
MAHER: I do. Do you?
CUPP: Do you read magazines?
MAHER: Let me give you your examples. This is, I'm reading, this is the ending, “A Decade of Lowlights From the Liberal Media.” These are your first three examples. Here's Joy Behar. This is one of your examples. She's talking about evolution –
CUPP: And she's a friend. I've done her show.
MAHER: “You have to teach them both. Darwinism is not some kind of a religious fervor thing” – Teach both? So she's for teaching both –
CUPP: No, what she said was that teaching creationism to kids should be akin to child abuse.
MAHER: No, she said you have to teach both.
CUPP: She said that facetiously.
MAHER: Well, that's interesting you can divine that.
CUPP: She said on The View that teaching creationism should be akin to child abuse.
The actual clip from May 5, 2009 (video on The Huffington Post) is Behar badgering Sherri Shepherd into making sure her son Jeffrey hears the scientific proof, that she teaches both, not that the school does:
JOY BEHAR: Sherri, you're going to teach your son science, aren't you? I mean Darwinism is a proven – pretty much --
SHERRI SHEPHERD: I would like Jeffrey to know about other things.
BEHAR: You have to teach both.
SHEPHERD: He will learn about both, but he's going to learn what I'm teaching about my faith.
ELISABETH HASSELBECK: How come some people want to learn about both only when it's what they want to be taught?
BEHAR: Because Darwinism is not some kind of a religious fervor thing. There's proof, scientific proof. And you want your children to go into the world being ignorant of that? That's child abuse, in my opinion.
After playing games with only a fraction of the quote, Maher then read the more limited quotation Cupp's book offered, and agreed with it:
MAHER: Yes, she did. She said “You have to teach them both. Darwinism is not some kind of a religious fervor thing. You want your children to go into the world being ignorant? That's child abuse.” Yeah, it is.
CUPP: I don't think that's true. I think, and –
MAHER: That's not an anti-religious statement.
CUPP: – and people who teach their kids creationism because it's a nice Christian allegory I don't think are guilty of child abuse.
So doesn't that disprove Maher's “never” boast? Isn't mocking the biblical story of the world's creation as “ignorance” proof of an attack on Christianity? Several times in this segment, when Maher was proven wrong that media figures “never” said something anti-religious, he would simply agree with it, without acknowledging he was disproven. Maher plowed ahead:
MAHER: The second one you quote is Jon Meacham, the editor of Newsweek.He's a religious guy!
CUPP: Yes he is.
MAHER: He doesn't –
CUPP: Newsweek declared the death of Christianity on Easter. I mean, really! It's preposterous.
But Maher started making wild assertions about the religiosity of news magazines, judging the books by their (occasional) covers:
MAHER: Are you kidding? Jesus or Mary is on the cover of Newsweek or Time like every other week. If Jesus had an office on Sunset Boulevard, and you walked down the corridor, he'd have his magazine covers on every wall. We did a mockup! There! This is the last few years.
Maher's collection of “religious” covers included stories with neutral titles like “Does Heaven Exist?” and “Is The Bible Fact or Fiction?” and “Spirituality in America.” Having a cover story with a religious topic is hardly an endorsement of religion. But again, he plowed ahead:
MAHER: This is the liberal media that hates – [Applause]
CUPP: One of those –
MAHER: It's crazy.
CUPP: One of those stories was actually saying you can actually read, if you read the Bible correctly, it actually supports gay marriage. I mean, it's one thing to show these covers, but come on. [That Newsweek cover on the biblical case for gay marriage was not in HBO's graphic.]
MAHER: You're picking out one little raisin in a giant piece of bread there, lady.
JOHN AVLON, CNN: There may be one example of, you know, the death of God, but clearly the overall trend is not that. I think what angers a lot of people and the larger thing is that, this arrogance that any one political party owns the Bible or the American flag, or the concept of freedom. That's what pisses people off.
After arguing with Newark Mayor Cory Booker about Christianity – where in one spot Booker suggested all roads lead to Heaven and Maher kept insisting that Jesus said he was the only way – Maher returned to his point about media bias:
MAHER: The things I talk about are things like questioning “Is faith good?” or that prayer doesn't work. That's the things I say. It's just me and a couple of cartoons.
CUPP: No! You're so wrong!
MAHER: Tell me one other person –
CUPP: I will go down –
MAHER: – in the media who ever questioned if faith was good or prayer worked. Brian Williams?
CUPP: I will –
MAHER: Keith Olbermann?
CUPP: I will go right now.
MAHER: Katie Couric? None of them.
CUPP: Oh my God! I can give you those examples right now. Chris Matthews said –
MAHER: Chris Matthews is a devout Catholic!
CUPP: Chris Matthews said that Sarah Palin and Michael Steele praying on big decisions was not normal. Rachel Maddow said the National Day of Prayer infringes on her right to religious freedom.
MAHER: It does.
CUPP: Keith Olbermann called pro-lifers religious jihadists. I could go down the line.
Avlon insisted these were just quotes of opinion, and Cupp said “I can give you news reports where religion is completely assailed.” Maher protested “They're not questioning the essence of religion. This is a country that worships religion.” Cupp replied: “Of course they are, Bill. Of course they are.”
Disclosure: MRC president Brent Bozell offers a dust-cover blurb for Cupp's book. He wrote: "How vicious is the secular media's all-out assault on the Judeo-Christian underpinnings of America? it is ugly enough, and dishonest enough that a professed atheist has risen to Christianity's defense. one needn't agree with Cupp's views on religion (I don't) to admire her courage in writing Losing Our Religion, a terrific contribution to the much-needed national discussion."